The Government's call for NHS recruits to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic is being undermined by a lack of essential supplies, according to the Doctors' Association UK, a non-profit organisation run by volunteers advocating on behalf of the medical profession and the NHS, and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
Both organisations have said the personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage means their members are being expected to take unacceptable risks and could force staff to choose between their jobs and their safety.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on 24 March that 11,788 retired NHS staff had agreed to come back to work to help tackle the crisis. But Doctors’ Association UK Chair Dr Rinesh Parmar told the "Guardian" newspaper: “The longer this epidemic goes on for, if doctors feel that there is a wide-spread lack of PPE, then some doctors may feel they have no choice but to give up the profession they love, because they feel so abandoned by not being given the PPE that the World Health Organiza-tion (WHO) recommends.
“That’s the travesty of this situation, that the Government needs to protect frontline health workers and in return they will give 100%. But the Government hasn’t kept its side of the bargain with NHS staff by not having enough PPE available to safeguard the health of doctors and nurses.”
“Pulse Magazine” has reported that GPs who are being supplied with face masks have received ones that have concealed "best before" stickers. The date 2016 expiry date on masks have been covered by ones which say 2021, and it is not clear how this has happened.
The materials in face masks that filter and trap germs can perish over time, making them less effective. The straps may also deteriorate in strength, but the mask should always be tightly fitted to the face.
"Pulse"said the places that had received expired face masks include: Berkshire; Buckinghamshire; Ox-fordshire; Bath and North East Somerset; Bristol; Kent; Lincolnshire; Merseyside; South Cumbria; West Yorkshire; North-East Yorkshire; Nottinghamshire; West Midlands; County Durham; Cambridge-shire; London; Newcastle; Manchester; Hampshire; Devon; and Glasgow.
A West country-based GP, who found the concealed "best before" sticker said doctors and nurses on the front line were not being given appropriate PPE. They said: "We in primary care are worried about the poor quality of PPE supplied to us; face masks up to four years out of date and the flimsiest of plastic aprons.
"We don't know who coming into the surgery might have COVID-19 so it is vital that we have the right equipment to protect us so we can carry on working to help patients throughout this crisis."
Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire local medical committees (LMCs) Chief Executive Dr Matt Mayer told "Pulse Magazine" that practices all over the area had been reporting inadequate PPE. He said that as well as face masks, doctors on the frontline need single-use plastic aprons which can be disposed of between patients protective eyewear, because it is possible for the Coronavirus germs to enter via the eyes.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) denied the masks are unsafe, and claimed they have been relabelled after passing "stringent tests". A DHSC spokesperson said: "Every piece of PPE supplied to GPs in England is safe to use and will effectively protect staff if used correctly."
Last reviewed 26 March 2020